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THE DEBATE: Minimum Wage

Wine Vault & Bistro owner says Todd Gloria is "clueless" about restaurant business


Today we hear from another restaurateur—Chris Gluck of Wine Vault & Bistro—on the impending minimum wage increase in San Diego.

As discussed in previous posts, San Diego’s proposed minimum wage hike has riled many restaurant owners. Their issue? Some of their tipped employees already make two-, three-, sometimes four-times the minimum wage. Council President Todd Gloria’s plan would force restaurant owners to pay these employees about $5,000 more annually come 2017. This debate is not about whether or not minimum wage should be raised. It is specifically about the restaurant industry and whether or not tipped wages should be accounted for in San Diego’s new minimum wage ordinance.

Restaurateurs have asked me to open up this forum to explain their side of the story. I am doing that. I also open this forum to anyone who has a relevant perspective on the issue. Politicians, living wage advocates, bartenders, dishwashers, cooks, diners, economists, whomever. People from four-star restaurants and people from one-star restaurants. Join the conversation by commenting below or emailing me at tjohnson@sandiegomagazine.com.

Starting two weeks ago, I have sent three requests for an interview with Todd Gloria.

What follows is a Q&A with Chris Gluck, owner of Wine Vault & Bistro.

Initial thoughts on the proposed minimum wage ordinance?
We take real good care of our back of the house already—they make way over minimum wage. We just sent our chef and sous chef to France for 12 days, all-expenses paid, to stage [intern] in some of our favorite restaurants.

What about the front of the house?
That’s where Todd Gloria's plan completely falls apart. We have a tip pool system here that encourages wait staff to pitch in and help other wait staff, even though they're not servicing customers in their "section.” That ends up being a win-win for the staff and the customer.

How much do your servers make per hour?
Our servers consistently average $28-32 per hour with pooled tips. And Todd wants to give them a raise? Seriously? He obviously is completely clueless about the restaurant business.  

What’s a solution?
Exempt tipped wait staff from the minimum wage rate hike. Or maybe something like an $8 minimum for servers but with a guaranteed minimum wage after tips.

How would the new minimum wage ordinance affect your cost of doing business?
I did the math and for every one dollar of minimum wage hike to our servers equates to a $2.00-2.50 increase per guest.  Guess what's going up? Yup, you guessed it—the cost of going out to eat.

Any other solutions?
Maybe Todd needs to open up a restaurant. 


Part One: Minimum Wage, Maximum Death!

Part Two: The Debate, A Q&A with a Restaurateur

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